Stanford Tops Green MBA Ranking

Posted by: Alison Damast on September 21, 2011

Stanford Graduate School of Business has bounced back to its number one slot as the greenest school on the block, according to the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes Survey. The biennial alternate ranking of business schools looks at how schools weave social, environmental and ethics content into their curriculum, examining everything from schools’ extracurricular activities to the number of course offerings on the topic. This year’s ranking shakeup pushed York University’s Schulich School of Business, number one in the 2009 ranking, to second place. Stanford ranked first in the ranking in 2005 and 2007, but stumbled to fourth place in 2009, the last time the survey was conducted.

Stanford earned back its top spot because of the large number of courses the school offers with social and environmental content, as well as classes that directly look at the role mainstream business can play in improving society, the survey authors noted. In addition, the school has done a good job creating an environment that allow faculty to explore these topics in their research, they said.

Closely following on the heels of the Schulich School are IE Business School in Spain, University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and the Yale School of Management, at no. 3, 4, and 5, respectively. For this year’s ranking, the Beyond Grey Pinstripes team looked at data from 149 schools in 22 countries.

This year's findings are particularly interesting because they allowed the Aspen Institute to track what type of impact the global financial meltdown had on schools' approaches to business and society issues, said Judith Sameulson, executive director of the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, which conducts the survey. Student demand, increased faculty readiness and administrators' growing desire to clarify how they approach these issues as a school have brought these ideas to the forefront in the last two years, she noted.

"In the wake of the financial crisis, we're seeing an increased willingness to address these issues," Samuelson said.

This new go-getter mindset can be found at many schools, especially in the core curriculum, which has seen a "striking increase" in content on social, ethical and environmental issues, the survey authors said. For example, there has been a 38 percent spike in the number of core classes addressing these issues in finance, a 57 percent increase in operations, and a 41 percent increase in marketing departments. Even more encouraging, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of schools requiring students to take a course dedicated to business and society issues, jumping from 69 percent in 2009 to 79 percent in 2011.

Professors also are addressing these topics more in their research, and there has been an uptick in papers that look at renewable energy, climate change and carbon markets. However, most of the research so far has been theoretical, and often fails to address current challenges facing business, Samuelson noted.

I think Samuelson brings up an interesting point in mentioning that faculty research tends to look at these complex issues from an ivory tower. The uptick in offerings in business and society content in the curriculum is cause for optimism, but I can't help but wonder if students face a similar problem when they study complex issues like climate change and renewable energy in class. Are they really prepared to tackle these issues head on when they enter the workforce, or are they, like their professors, looking at these issues through an academic bubble?

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